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Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It is considered the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy"[1] after Freud's psychoanalysis and Adler's individual psychology. It is a type of existentialist analysis that focuses on a will to meaning as opposed to Adler's Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud's will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one's life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.

Contents

Basic principles

The notion of Logotherapy was created with the Greek word logos ("meaning"). Frankl’s concept is based on the premise that the primary motivational force of an individual is to find a meaning in life. The following list of tenets represents the basic principles of logotherapy:

  • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
  • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
  • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

The human spirit is referred to in several of the assumptions of logotherapy, but it should be noted that the use of the term spirit is not "spiritual" or "religious". In Frankl's view, the spirit is the will of the human being. The emphasis, therefore, is on the search for meaning, which is not necessarily the search for God or any other supernatural being.[2] Frankl also noted the barriers to humanity's quest for meaning in life. He warns against "...affluence, hedonism, [and] materialism..." in the search for meaning.[3]

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Discovering meaning

According to Frankl, we can discover meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by doing a deed; (2) by experiencing a value – nature, a work of art, another person, i.e., love; (3) by suffering.[4] On the meaning of suffering, Frankl gives the following example:

Once, an elderly general practitioner consulted me because of his severe depression. He could not overcome the loss of his wife who had died two years before and whom he had loved above all else. Now how could I help him? What should I tell him? I refrained from telling him anything, but instead confronted him with a question, "What would have happened, Doctor, if you had died first, and your wife would have had to survive you?:" "Oh," he said, "for her this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You see, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared her, and it is you who have spared her this suffering; but now, you have to pay for it by surviving and mourning her." He said no word but shook my hand and calmly left the office.[5]
Viktor Frankl

Frankl emphasized that realizing the value of suffering is meaningful only when the first two creative possibilities are not available (for example, in a concentration camp) and only when such suffering is inevitable – he was not proposing that people suffer unnecessarily.[6]

Overcoming Anxiety

By recognizing the purpose of our circumstances, one can master anxiety. Anecdotes about this use of logotherapy are given by New York Times writer Tim Sanders, who explained how he uses its concept to relieve the stress of fellow airline travelers by asking them the purpose of their journey. When he does this, no matter how miserable they are, their whole demeanor changes, and they remain happy throughout the flight.[7]

Treatment of Neurosis

Frankl cites two neurotic pathogens: hyper-intention, a forced intention toward some end which makes that end unattainable; and hyper-reflection, an excessive attention to oneself which stifles attempts to avoid the neurosis to which one thinks oneself predisposed. Frankl identified anticipatory anxiety, a fear of a given outcome which makes that outcome more likely. To relieve the anticipatory anxiety and treat the resulting neuroses, logotherapy offers paradoxical intention, wherein the patient intends to do the opposite of his hyper-intended goal.

A person, then, who fears (i.e. experiences anticipatory anxiety over) not getting a good night's sleep may try too hard (that is, hyper-intend) to fall asleep, and this would hinder his ability to do so. A logotherapist would recommend, then, that he go to bed and intentionally try not to fall asleep. This would relieve the anticipatory anxiety which kept him awake in the first place, thus allowing him to fall asleep in an acceptable amount of time.[8]

Frankl's Holocaust experience

A short introduction to this system is given in Frankl's most famous book, Man's Search for Meaning, in which he outlines how his theories helped him to survive his Holocaust experience and how that experience further developed and reinforced his theories.

References

  1. ^ Gordon W. Allport, from the Preface to Man's Search for Meaning, p. xiv
  2. ^ Seidner, Stanley S. (June 10, 2009) "A Trojan Horse: Logotherapeutic Transcendence and its Secular Implications for Theology". Mater Dei Institute. p 3.
  3. ^ "Tenets". Logotherapy Institute.
  4. ^ Frankl, Viktor (1959). Man's Search for Meaning. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. p. 176. ISBN 0807014265.  
  5. ^ Frankl, Viktor (1959). Man's Search for Meaning. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0807014265.  
  6. ^ Frankl, Viktor (1986). The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy. Vintage Books. p. 115. ISBN 0394743172. http://books.google.com/books?id=4ZpOAAAACAAJ&dq=%22The+Doctor+and+the+Soul%22+Frankl.  
  7. ^ Sanders, Tim "A Chatterer's Guide to Easing Anxiety", The New York Times (November 24, 2008)
  8. ^ Frankl, Viktor (1959). Man's Search for Meaning (2006 ed.). Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. pp. 122–129. ISBN 0807014265.  

Bibliography

Frankl, Viktor. Man's Search for Meaning. Preface by Gordon W. Allport.   Crumbaugh, James C. Logotherapy: New Help for Problem Drinkers. Burnham, Inc. (June 1979)

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